Getting pregnant today means being overwhelmed with warnings from family, friends, strangers, the Internet, books, and a number of other sources. These sources can become so domineering that they can begin to take over, making an expectant mother feel inadequate even before the new bundle arrives. In the third trimester of my first pregnancy I would like to offer the top three things I’ve learned to other expectant mothers – not about how to mother, but about how to cope in this age of fearful pregnancy.
First, don’t let everyone else dictate what’s important to you and your family. You may want to listen politely but don’t feel obligated to take the advice you’ll hear. Stick to your guns if something is important to and your partner. I never wanted to find out the sex of our baby – a rarity these days – but my husband was almost pushed into it. When we broke the sad news that we wouldn’t, in fact, be able to find out whether my sister gets the nephew she so desperately wants or my mother-in-law gets the granddaughter she intends to spoil, our families were shocked. Devastated! How could they plan for this child without knowing its sex!?!
Still, it is important not to give in to everyone else’s ideas about how you should treat your pregnancy. Some decisions – most of them, in fact – are between you and your partner and really should be firm decisions the two of you make together without your parents or siblings or friends interfering. Everyone in the world, from your co-worker to complete strangers in the bookstore, will try to tell you about why you should breastfeed or have cameras in the delivery room. It is wise to make decisions independently of this “advice,” no matter how well intentioned.
Second, beware of what you read. I went out and faithfully purchased a pregnancy journal, a baby name book, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting shortly after I found out we were having a baby. The journal has come in handy; I must admit. As a writer, I want to record this journey to look back on fondly and to give my child an idea of what Mommy was like before he or she entered the world. The baby name book is quite a distraction. With 30,000 names, definitions, and origins at our disposal, we’ve still returned to the few names we came up with on our own before the baby name book entered our lives.
What to Expect, the anointed Bible of pregnancy, has some helpful information. I’ve found the answers to questions I didn’t want to ask my doctor or ones I asked but didn’t get answered. Still, the book is part of a culture of fear surrounding pregnancy today. I cannot count the number of times I’ve thought, “Didn’t women have babies for millennia before they knew this?” Granted, I’m glad we know that milk and other calcium-rich products are necessary for a healthy baby. I want to know that my doctor can order an ultrasound to tell if there are problems in my pregnancy. Reading all of the information out there, though, is impossible given the short time-span in which a pregnancy occurs. Trying to sift through that information is even more daunting a task, and forget about making sure you get just enough zinc but not too much magnesium in your diet. A pregnant woman could drive herself crazy thinking about all of the admonitions she hears during what should be a joyous time.
Finally, savor the moment. With baby due in 10 weeks, I actually feel relaxed. We have some of the décor for the nursery but not all of it. We are spending a weekend painting and rearranging – okay, I’m mainly supervising – to get everything ready for our little miracle. My husband and I are probably the only expectant parents who laugh hysterically when we visit baby stores. We’re shocked at the material possessions our baby needs to be a happy child. A compulsive list-maker, I have a list of all of the people my husband will need to call once the baby’s born. I have a list of what I’m packing for us to take, and I even know the date I will lug the suitcases out and pack them. Of course, I’m hoping our little one does not plan on an early arrival, but even in that event, I have my list handy. I picked out a place to order food to pick up for our first night home.
I am pretty organized about this pregnancy, but it is important to do it in a relaxed manner. I love sitting back and watching my tummy contort with the baby’s movements, and I’ve enjoyed spending quiet time with my husband in our last months before parenthood. It is key not to feel caught up in the whirlwind of modern parenting, buying everything out there for your child and forgetting to put emphasis on the most precious cargo – the baby.